Time for a proper vehicle.

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July 7th 2017
Published: July 7th 2017
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When the promo caravan had arrived, it was still quite quiet, far quieter than I had expected it to be. A couple of French guys had parked their motorbike in front of bob, and with a mix of broken French and a translation app, we just about managed to converse. So much so they bought me a waffle with chocolate and cream on, and in return I made them a cup of coffee, as it seems that you can only buy beers at these kinds of local events. After the promo lot had finished throwing their stuff to us, the Belgian guys walked over and there was a bit of trading between us all, with packets of sweets going to the boys and sun shades going to the vans, and hats shared out. The finish line for the hill climb stage never did get busy so I was able to stand next to it see the first guys cycle through, followed a little while later by the main peloton. Once it was all over we all said our goodbyes and I headed for Toul. At some point I must of allowed motorways, as the sat nav put me on a couple. But traffic that evening was very light, so it wasn't a bad trip down. When I reached the D611, it was a very long straight but no where I really wanted to sleep, so I headed back to a parking area. The next morning I didn't really move quickly as I expected there to be loads of places to park, but by 10, just about all the flat areas were taken, so I found a place that would be good enough and stopped. It was a good place to see the race, but it was a very hot day, and all the bugs kept flying in to the van. As there was no one near me, it meant I got loads of tat from the promo guys, including a couple of flags. So I've changed the bandana to a Direct energie pro cycling flag. I also got a McCain oven chips one, but it's huge, and I have no where to hang it. The next stop was supposed to be Ormoiche, but I started finding tour arrows so found a place to park just outside of Luxieul Des Bains. Again in the morning, by 10am the road had gone from just me, to a queue of cars all along it. The funny thing is, the English guy I met in Arenberg at the Paris Roubaix race, said during the tour you can park pretty much anywhere, and it's true you can, but it doesn't make me any more comfortable doing it. Yesterday when the promo caravan came past I collected a whole bunch of bits, but today, being busier, I hardly got a thing. Also today my gearbox started playing up again. It had done it a couple of days ago, so I tried adjusting the linkages, which helped for that trip, but it looks like I might have just been lucky, as it's back. The problem has kind of always been there, just not enough to seem like an issue, but now that I'm in the middle of France, it has got bad. The issue is engaging first gear. Now on start up it's always been a pain, but you bring the clutch up with a few revs, and then try again, and most the time it works. But now it's getting almost impossible to get first, so I'm going to have to call it, and head home soon. As the next few stages are close, I'm hoping to see the tour till Sunday, but that does put me deep into France. I do have breakdown, but I'm not really one for using it, I'd rather get home and sort it out myself if I can. I also considered taking it to a local garage, ( something else I'm against doing), but if I do this, I don't know how much that will eat of my budget, or how long it will take. Part of me is fighting the thought of throwing in the towel, but this whole trip has been ill-fated from the start, and the way things tend to go for me, if I engage my stubborn side and ignore it, I'll just end up in a worse position. One thing is for sure, I will be back next year!

Last night I stayed at an aire in Luxieul as the next stage was so close, and with the idea of using the facilities. But you need tokens to use the them, and the heat was almost unbearable as the van was now an oven, so I should have parked on route like I have been. The next morning I went to nearby Norauto, and bought a litre of gearbox oil (something I have loads of at home, just didn't bring any!). Then when I removed the plug, I realised that the nut I had welded on, was coming away, so there was a hole, from which all my oil was leaking out. So I've bodged it by filling the plug with exhaust sealant and then heating it up on the stove to set it. This will either seal or pop. I then made my way to Landres where the first climb will be, but they had already closed the road. This at first didn't matter as they just ignored me going past. Even the gendarmes who were stopping cars, also just ignore me. I then realised I had gone past the start not the finish in Vesoul, so I pulled into a layby with a bunch of other motor homes and waited for the show to arrive, as I was never going to reach it before the tour came through. This time I didn't make the mistake of going in the morning, and drove through the afternoon to avoid the heat. This worked well as I managed to park up, in the shade, but the van still got hot till 10:30. Even when I got up and went out for a piss, the wind was still warm at 3am. While driving down, I also found one of these public laundrettes that are in the middle of a car park. It was a breeze to use and even texted me when it was done! So today I'm parked up just outside of Chanceaux along a long straight, a bit like Toul, but not as long. After this I'm going to aim for a campsite, just outside of Dole, for a couple of nights, and cycle in to Dole from there to see a stage start. After this the race does its first stage in the mountains, then flys over to the other side of France. As I'm still not bonding with this camper, and I doubt it'll put up with the mountains, Dole will be my final stage. After this I will head home, and probably try and sell it. After this I'm in two minds whether to reinstate the Landy, stick the roof tent on it, and go back out. Or do something else and go to the Paris stage by motor bike. The funny thing is, seeing the stages have been amazing, but not having someone there for the low points, in a country where next to no one speaks English is a very depressing experience. It won't stop me traveling alone, but this trip has had some major lows, and a lot of first time experiences, and it's funny, but, I thing that the bond you have with the vehicle your using, makes a hell of a difference. I know that sounds weird, but for example, I know the Landy inside out, and the things that thing can do and has got me out of, has always given me a great feeling I suppose of pride. It's the same for the bikes, the 920 and the full suss, for example, have carried incredible loads, and ridden over some harsh terrain without missing a beat, which again has earns my respect for them. But this camper is just too cramped, and to unpredictable, especially when driving hills in the heat, whether I underestimated its power and age, who knows, but it's not for me.

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